What Does Orphans Mean?

An orphan, in digital or printed text, is a short word or text cluster that appears at the beginning of a column or block of text by itself, usually at the top of a new column of text. For many developers and readers, it is visually unappealing.


Techopedia Explains Orphans

The orphan is fairly rare in typesetting or layout. Unlike a widow, which is a small word or phrase at the end of a column or paragraph, the orphan doesn’t usually appear because of various rules for how text is set up.

The most common occurrence happens when the orphan is the last line of text, but the text has exceeded its column and gone to the top of the next one. Another option occurs when a short or narrow column is so excessively indented at the beginning of a paragraph that the first line is mostly white space.

In the event that an orphan appears, the designer or manager of the page can change fonts or font sizes, or the size of the actual text block. Adjusting the letting – that is, the space between the individual characters, is also an option.

There are also tools and resources in modern digital text handling programs like Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) that can help to provide consistent results across a large number of web pages or content pieces.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…